By MASON KERN | 247 Sports
In his native country of Senegal in West Africa, Mouhamed Lamine Mbaye grew up learning Taekwondo, reaching black belt status before shifting his focus to a new pursuit in December of 2016. That endeavor was basketball, which he picked up quickly, as evidenced by his qualification for the Senegalese national team merely a year later.
For the next two years, Lamine Mbaye competed in several youth national tournaments before representing Senegal in Crete, Greece, at the FIBA Under-19 Basketball World Cup in 2019. It was there that he said he was exposed to American basketball for the first time, losing to the United States 87-58 in the group phase.
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Lamine Mbaye did not have the best performance in that specific contest, contributing one rebound on the stat sheet while shooting 0-for-4 from the field in nine and a half minutes, but he said it was an experience that motivated him to exponentially improve.null
“I started playing basketball in my country,” Lamine Mbaye told Sun Devil Source. “After I learned Taekwondo, I got to play basketball. My brother helped me a lot. I started playing in 2016, in 2017 I [went] to under-16 with my national team. After 2018, I [went] to under-18 with my national team. And last year, I [went] to (the) World Cup under-19 and I played against (the) U.S., too. That was a good game and I had a little experience.”
In September of 2019, two months after the conclusion of the World Cup July 7, Lamine Mbaye said he made the decision to leave Senegal and pursue what he considered to be greater basketball opportunities in America. Playing his first year in the country as a junior for Louisville (Ky.) Aspire Basketball Academy, Lamine Mbaye played in 16 games averaging 10.6 points and 6.7 rebounds per contest, according to the team’s website. He had shooting splits of 45.8 percent (55-for-120) on two-point field goals and 34.6 percent (9-for-26) from behind the arc.
“It was a little bit hard,” Lamine Mbaye said of his transition to the United States. “School, the English stuff, you see my English is not that good, but I’m trying to speak. When I was coming here, my English was not good. I couldn’t talk a lot, I only knew, ‘Hello. What (are) you doing?’ It was pretty much that, but now I’m getting through it and I’m learning stuff and going to school trying to do my best.”
The increased exposure via Aspire has led to national recruiting interest in Lamine Mbaye. He has reportedly accumulated five scholarship offers, including one from Arizona State Aug. 22 that he said followed a ‘Zoom’ meeting with several of the program’s coaches.
“I think they watched my film and they like me,” Lamine Mbaye said. “After, they were talking to my coach and I got on a ‘Zoom’ meeting with the coach and they really like me and need me. And I was having a ‘Zoom’ meeting with the head coach, Bobby (Hurley), and they really like me and I like their university too.
“The ‘Zoom’ meeting was good. I learned a lot of things for me like the school’s academics, I know everything so far. And I was asking questions and he was showing us how to get to the League (NBA), everything. He was nice and he explained everything.”
Considering his relative newness in the country, Lamine Mbaye said he did not extensively watch American college basketball prior to becoming involved in the recruiting process. Yet, as he has become more immersed, there are certain criteria he said he is looking for in a school.
“I would just want to go where I’m going to play, where they really need me and where they want me so bad,” Lamine Mbaye said. “It does not matter where I’m going to go, but I just want one school who [has] attention on me, likes me and needs me … I’m trying to do my best to get all the offers, the maximum possible I can and try to choose the best one for me.”
Bryant, Iona, Louisville and Rutgers represent Lamine Mbaye’s other reported scholarship offers. He is currently unranked by both 247Sports independent evaluations and on the network’s Composite and listed Cincinnati, Memphis, Oklahoma State, Tulsa and Virginia Tech as other programs he hears from. With one more year at the high school level, Lamine Mbaye said he is not focused on picking a school anytime soon and that a commitment could come after his senior season.
A listed 6-foot-8 and 215 pounds, Lamine Mbaye said he has a preference to play forward at the next level. At the same time, he considers himself versatile enough to play several spots.
“I’m a good defender, I can defend [every position] and my mid-range jump shot is good, but I’m working on that to be great,” Lamine Mbaye said. “I want to be the best, so I have to work on my shot. And I’m a good driver too. I can play post-up moves and I can play pick-and-pop like a power forward.
“Right now, you have to have a good handle, good jump shot and you can play in and out. If you’re trying to go to the League or trying to play pro, you have to have good everything: good skills; good jump shot; play in and out. I’m working on my game and seeing where it’s going to go. I want to play small forward or power forward, but I’m working on my skills and trying to get better every day.”
With ASU now involved, Lamine Mbaye said that he is planning to pay more attention to the program and continue to expand his relationship with the coaching staff. His early impressions have been generally positive.
“I think they have a good program and this year they have good recruiting,” Lamine Mbaye said. “I think they’re going to look great this year and I’m looking forward to seeing. I’m going to pay more attention watching their games and watching how they play.
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